- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2020

California medical professionals are raising the alarm about increased suicide attempts during the coronavirus pandemic as an economic shutdown is prolonged.

Doctors and nurses in the Bay Area spoke to a local ABC affiliate this week about a sharp rise in attempt suicides — a year’s worth — in one month.

San Francisco had a suicide rate of 11.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019.

“Personally I think it’s time [to unwind the shutdown],” Dr. Mike deBoisblanc told the station Thursday. “I think, originally, [the shelter-in-place order] was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients. We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering. We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time. I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”

Trauma nurse Kacey Hansen also weighed in on what she’s seeing in comparison to her previous 33 years of experience. 

“What I have seen recently, I have never seen before,” Ms. Hansen told the station. “I have never seen so much intentional injury.”

Executive Director Tom Tamura of the Contra Costa County Crisis Center said that a national shutdown has forced citizens to be “disconnected from the normal supportive networks that they have, churches and schools and book clubs, you name it.”

“And that, coupled with the closure of some counseling services, people were maybe in a little bit of shock,” he said. “They were trying to weather the storm a bit, but as that isolation has grown people have come to realize this isn’t a sprint, it is a marathon.”

John Muir Health stressed via a statement late Thursday that it “has been, and continues to be, supportive of the Shelter-in-Place order put in place by Contra Costa County Health Services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” 

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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